On the heels of the highest sales debut of his career with his third CD Every Chance I Get, country trailblazer Colt Ford takes time out from a busy touring schedule to talk to Country Music Pride about his fans, family values and looking for validation from the Nashville music industry. The following is part one of an exclusive interview as he was preparing to get on his bus and hit the road for a string of live shows.
Country Music Pride: It seems like the Nashville establishment and the industry push back against your music style, radio especially, but your fans are hardcore.
COLT FORD: That’s true.
CMP: They love you. One fan writes, “You have single handedly spun my view of country rap 180 degrees…”
CF: If it wasn’t for the fans I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. That’s the reason I play so hard every night. That’s the reason I stay after a show. If it takes three hours to sign autographs and take pictures, I’ll stay three hours till everybody has what they need…
At the end of the day the music and the fans are what it’s all about. That live experience. Going out there and shaking hands…I don’t care if I’m at a restaurant or whatever, I don’t have a problem if somebody walks up and wants to take a picture or wants to say hello. I always try to do that.
It really bothers me when I see artists that don’t [do that], or get caught up thinking they’re something a little bit more than they are…You’re playing music for a living. I mean, we’re not neurosurgeons. We’re not soldiers…You’re not a nurse. You’re not a teacher. You get to play music for a living. We’re lucky we get to do what we do and you should take full advantage of that by taking care of your fans and saying hello or signing something for somebody if that’s what they want. That’s what it’s all about.
CMP: The fans nicknamed you Mr. Goodtime. Is that from your emcee persona and your live shows?
CF: That was a song off my first album and it describes me pretty clear – Mr. Good time. I like to have fun. There’s plenty of trouble and drama and tough things going on in the world. So, when you come to my show I want you to put a smile on your face and walk out of there and go, ‘man, I had a hell of a time and I’d love to go do that again! And, I got to forget about any kind of trouble – any things that were bothering me for awhile.’
That’s really important… for people to be able to go and have that time away from being stressed…dealing with the things they have to deal with. That’s why I work so hard on our live show and I [have] got such a great band that does the same thing. They feel the same way I do about playing hard and giving it everything you got. When you get on stage you don’t just go through the motions, you give it everything you got.
CMP: Which of the songs off of your new release Every Chance I Get is your favorite one to play live?
CF: Well, we’ve only added a few of them so far and we’re gonna continue to add some cause the record just came out. So, you wanna give people a chance to get the record and hear what it is.
I‘ll kinda let the fans dictate what they wanna hear. Obviously I can’t play all of them because it’s my third record. You can’t play all those songs, but I wanna play the ones that the fans wanna hear. That’s what I do. I listen to them. I talk to them. I give them what they want. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more important than that.
CMP: One of the lines in the track “This is Our Song” with Danny Boone mentions, “I have to represent for our country youth,” and I wondered if that was your mission – to broaden country music and the rap genre and be a voice for younger country music fans who have grown up on rap and relate to it?
CF: That’s what’s so funny to me, why it’s so shocking [to] Nashville and radio in general is so shocked… that people like what I do. You take anybody under 40; they grew up listening to all kinds of stuff. They’re not genre specific. They may have heard certain songs, but if they went to a party in the last 25 years they probably weren’t listening to Merle Haggard at their high school party. That’s just a fact. That’s just the way it is. But, they know who Run DMC is…
I don’t feel like I’ve created something new. I honestly consider myself a country artist. I think that recitation, [and] talking on records has been around for a long time. You know, Jerry Reid, Johnny Cash, even Hank Sr. talked a lot of verses. Yeah, I do it a little more rhythmically. But, what I do is very similar to Charlie Daniels or Jerry Reed…and it’s been around awhile.
And it’s funny. If you listen to my stuff and think that I’m not country, then, man we are from way two different kinds of country is all I can tell you. I mean, I love a lot of the artists that are coming out of Nashville, but I’m way more country than about 85% or 90% of them. That’s just the truth.
CMP: Especially the subject matter, your lyrics are all about country living and small town life.
CF: I talk about what I know about. That’s just what I do. You talk about that line in there where I said ‘represent for our country youth,’ I really mean that to a certain extent because those younger kids, they dig what I do.
And I want them to be proud to be a country kid. It’s alright to pull your pants up and say yes ma’am and yes sir, that’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. You watch TV and you’re told, ‘that’s not cool you need to be something else.’ And that’s not right.
I want country kids to be proud of who they are and where they’re from. And understand it’s alright to say y’all, and yes ma’am, and yes sir, [to] open a door for a lady and get up when someone walks in a room and shake their hand. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. That’s a good thing. We’ve lost a lot of that in this country and I want country kids to be proud to do that kind of stuff.
CMP: Your fans are very protective of you. I saw a post on your Facebook page regarding Jason Aldean’s version of a song you co-wrote, Dirt Road Anthem. One fan comments, “You do it best.”
CF: [polite chuckle] Well…you gotta understand, first of all, Jason’s one of my best friends in the music business and outside of the music business. We’re friends. So, I had zero problem with Jason [doing that song]. It’s not like he stole my song.
The more successful that song is the more it helps me. And that’s what I try to explain to everybody…Look, when I cut [my version of] that song, I didn’t make it to be played on country radio. It wasn’t designed to be for that…When Brantley [Gilbert] and I wrote that song we thought we were… gonna write a song that we like and we’ll record it. Turns out there’s a lot of people like us that like what we like.
But, when Jason wanted to do it I thought he made it his own. It sounds like him. And that’s opening more doors for me.
At the end of day, I try to tell my fans all the time, ‘I appreciate the love and support, I do. But if you love and support me then you’ll support that song.’ Because the more successful that [song] is the better opportunities that I have. The more doors are open.
You know, there’s tons of radio stations that have no choice but to play Jason Aldean. I mean, he’s a superstar. So now, when my radio team calls up, [and station managers say] ’we can’t play Colt Ford, [my team says]…well, you’re already playing Colt Ford. What do you mean you can’t play him?’ So, obviously it works because this has been [Jason’s] fastest rising single ever. So obviously, people like it.
…But my fans, they are fiercely loyal to me. They are protective. People make comments and I see them sometimes but I try not to read the negative stuff. But, when they do [make negative comments] there’s always 50 in a row jumping on that person.
People are entitled to their opinion, that’s fine… If you don’t like something, I don’t care. I don’t like to see people personally attack stuff. But, at the same time I figure the folks that do sit around and write that kinda stuff and criticize something probably are folks that live in their momma’s basement, eat boogers and think wrestling’s real. So, I don’t really pay much attention to what those people say anyway.
CMP: Your live shows, online community and CMT seem to be how people are discovering your music and they are getting the word out about your music.
CF: CMT has really been good to me…video wise too, not cause they’re mine, but I’ve made some really good videos…You can say whatever you want to,’ Chicken and Biscuits’ video was friggin’ great. It was fun, it was funny. Again, here’s the problem, a lot of people get so caught up, because you’re on this label or that label and you look a certain way – then, that means people will dig it. And that’s just not true.
Fans can figure out if they like something or not, now more than ever…They don’t care what the number one song in America is. What’s number one is what they like. It’s plain and simple. Especially for kids…they don’t know what the number one song on [the] Billboard chart is. They just know, ‘Hey, I like this song!’ And my[sixteen year old] daughter, she’ll throw a CD in my truck and it’s got Lil Wayne, followed by Jason Aldean, followed by Taylor Swift, followed by whatever, I mean, Black Eyed Peas. It’s just songs that they like. They don’t really care who makes them [or] what genre.
CMP: And that’s who buys your records.
CF: Right! I just [pauses]… I keep trying to get the walls broken down; all I’ve ever asked for is a chance. And that’s the thing that’s frustrating. When I look at record sales and go ‘wow, I’ve sold about three times as many records as that artist that you’re playing fifty times a week on your station and you’re not playing me once. I don’t understand that… Why can’t you play me?’
I’m not doing something negative. I’m doing something positive. I’m a good dude. I mean, I love my family and this country. All I ever wanted was a chance and it’s frustrating when folks at radio are not giving me a chance to be heard. I’d be lying if I tell you it didn’t hurt my feelings and I‘m not frustrated by it.